In the years since Usher released his 2004 hit Confessions, the landscape of R&B music has changed dramatically. While Usher was happily releasing club-banger pop hits, new artists in the form of Abel Tesfaye (AKA The Weeknd) or Frank Ocean have risen up by exploring new complexities of the genre, both lyrically and musically.
But it has been eight years, and now Usher is back and better than ever. Teaming up with Diplo on production, “Climax” is an example of Usher at his best, choosing a restrained and emotional falsetto, over club anthem showboating. Over Diplo’s uncharacteristically reserved and subtle beat, he sings about a relationship that is without hope of saving: “Going nowhere fast, we’ve reached the climax / Won’t commit so we choose to run away.” From the moment Usher’s falsetto vocals are unleashed over the perfectly complimentary beat, it’s hard not to be taken back to the Confessions-era when Usher ruled pop music. Nothing about the song is overbearing, unlike most tracks off of 2010’s Raymond v. Raymond, which was a commercial success, but definitely left something (or many things) to be desired.
But, with “Climax,” R&B fans can let out that sigh of relief they’ve been holding in for past few years: it is far from simply serviceable, and provides a strong sample of what Usher’s future album can hold. Though it still doesn’t hold much of the innovations and risks of something like The Weeknd’s House of Balloons, “Climax” can do something that most songs on that album can’t do without losing most of their fun: be played on the radio. Because of that, it is clear that this is only the beginning of Usher’s resurgence into both commercial praise, and (dare I say it?) critical praise.